The holidays bring a lot of excitement with them—time spent with family and friends, celebrating with loved ones, tasty food and crisp weather. Despite all the wonderful things the season has to offer, it’s also time to start preparing for cold and flu season. For many, this can bring along with it a sense of anxiety and concern, especially given all of the media attention given to recent flu stains.
Rest assured, there are several things you can do this year to build your immunity naturally and to help you and your family make it through the season happy and healthy. The key to staying healthy and to avoiding these nasty bugs is to strengthen your defenses, primarily your immune system, so that your body can fight any virus as it enters the body. Here are some powerful ways to boost your immune system and prepare you and your family for this flu season.
1. Add some sunshine
Researchers are quickly catching on that vitamin D may be the secret to avoiding the cold and flu. Vitamin D plays an important role in strengthening your defense system to better fight any invading viruses and bacteria. Unfortunately, it is also the number one vitamin deficiency in Americans. Compounding the problem is the fact that vitamin D is produced when the body gets adequate levels of sunshine, so naturally, even less is produced in the winter months. It has recently been hypothesized that this could be one major reason for the increase in cold and flu cases during the winter season. Because of this, it’s important that we have alternative ways of getting this powerful immune boosting vitamin. One great source of vitamin D is cod liver oil. In addition to the vitamin D it offers, it’s also a great source of vitamin A, which is an immune system superstar, and Omega 3 fatty acids, which holds significant health benefits for the heart, brain, skin, and much more.
2. Fighting fire with fire
Your immune system is your body’s number one defense when it comes to fighting off the cold and flu. Further, it’s estimated that 80% of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, so it’s vital to keep your digestive system healthy when trying to avoid getting sick. Thankfully, our gut is filled with a large amount of “good” bacteria, or flora, that help fight all the “bad” bacteria and yeasts that are trying to find their way into our system. Because of diets high in refined sugars, frequent antibiotic use, and everyday stress, most people do not have a healthy balance of good versus bad bacteria, leaving one more vulnerable. As we head into cold and flu season, now is a good time to restore the proper balance in the gut by taking a probiotic before each meal through the winter months. Probiotics can be found in any health food store in the refrigerated supplement area. An excellent whole food source of probiotics is kefir. Kefir has significantly more “good” bacteria than yogurt and is much easier for your body to digest.
3. Get moving
Most of us are very aware of all the amazing benefits exercise has on our overall health and well-being. Few of us, however, know that exercise is one of the most powerful ways to boost the immune system. Not only does exercise improve the circulation of white blood cells throughout your body, but it has been show to increase the production of natural killer T cells, which are essential for maintaining an optimum immune response. The amount of exercise required to obtain an immune boost is relatively low, 20 minutes of brisk walking 4-5 times per week has been shown to significantly improve the body’s immune response. This is also a good opportunity to get a little bit of sunshine to stimulate vitamin D production.
4. ‘An apple a day…’
When it comes to fighting cold and flu, it is essential to decrease your sugar intake. Sugar has devastating effects on the immune system, and the fact that Americans consume an average of 2-3 pounds of sugar per person every year spells bad news come cold and flu season. Not only does sugar increase the production of hormones that suppress the immune system, refined sugar needs micronutrients to be metabolized. This requires your body to use stored vitamins and minerals, further harming your defenses. On the other hand, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will make sure that your body is getting all of the vitamins and minerals that are essential to fighting of the cold and flu. Each and every fruit and vegetable is packed with thousands of phytochemicals. No supplement could ever match the power of eating a whole food. Regardless of what vitamin and mineral you take, it should always be as a supplement to a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
5. Keep balanced
By now, we all know that stress is bad for us. However, relatively few of us are aware of how stress actually impacts the health of the body. When we experience stress, the natural balance of the body is affected in ways we could never imagine. In fact, stress takes an enormous toll on the immune system. For this reason, it is important to find ways to bring the body back into balance. Meditation, prayer, exercise, and yoga are all great ways of taking care of yourself and keeping stress levels low. Chiropractic adjustments also have a significant effect on the nervous system, creating balance, helping to restoring the body’s natural healing potential.
As winter gears up, get proactive. By implementing these five simple tools, you can dramatically increase your ability to make it through the season without ever having to miss a day from work or school. So this year, instead of making a trip to the doctor’s office, make it to your local health food store and see how good you can feel even during the winter months.